OL Reign announced on Friday that defenders Shae Holmes and Alyssa Malonson will return for the 2024 NWSL season. Holmes had her option year picked up by the club, while Malonson signed a new one-year deal.
After the Reign traded up to select Holmes in the second round of the NWSL draft, the rookie made nine starts in 12 appearances across all NWSL competitions, logging 839 minutes at both left back and centerback. The 23-year-old was one of two Reign players to start in all seven NWSL Challenge Cup games, and she recorded a perfect tackle success rate, won 18 duels, and completed the seventh most passes during the tournament. She was also part of a defense that held opponents scoreless throughout the six games of group play and was one of two rookies named to the Challenge Cup All-Tournament Team.
“As a rookie, Shae contributed in the way she and Coach Harvey discussed when she was drafted. She was able to navigate an entire professional season physically and mentally in a way that proves she's ready for the next step in the club,” said Reign general manager Lesle Gallimore. “She played a lot of quality minutes during the year, remained healthy, and was a positive teammate. It's going to be fun watching Shae's continued development and contribution.”
Holmes graduated from the University of Washington, where she had a standout final season after dealing with multiple ACL tears during her college career. She appeared in 44 games for the Huskies, recording two goals and seven assists. As a graduate student in 2022, Holmes was selected to the All-Pac-12 Second Team.
Malonson joined the Reign in 2022 after a trade with the North Carolina Courage, who had drafted her in 2021 before the defender opted to stay at Auburn University to play out her fifth year of eligibility. Malonson spent time on loan to FC Nordsjælland in the Danish Women’s League in 2022 – playing 13 matches there before rejoining the Reign this season. Across all competitions in 2023, Malonson made nine appearances for the Reign.
The 23-year-old left back had a standout performance against the Portland Thorns in the Challenge Cup on June 28. In addition to earning her first NWSL assist in the 1-0 win, she had a game-high 12 recoveries and combined for a match-high eight tackles and interceptions. She also led the Reign with five clearances.
In possession, Malonson earned the assist, and she also had the second-most touches in the match and carried the ball the furthest of any Reign player — showing her speed and ability to bring the ball up the field.
Head coach Laura Harvey was full of praise for Malonson after the match.
“Alyssa is turning into a gamer. I think every time she’s gone on the field in games, she’s done really well. Her development pathway has been maybe not as fast as what she wanted it to be, but she’s just shown tonight that she can compete with the best. I thought they [Malonson and Holmes] were both exceptional.”
"The club is pleased to have Alyssa Malonson continue with us into 2024,” said Gallimore. “She's a gifted player who has shown dramatic improvement since joining the league and we look forward to her continued development and impact."
Malonson spent five years at Auburn University, playing primarily as a defender, but also making appearances as a midfielder and forward. She scored four goals and tallied 23 assists for Auburn and was named to the United Soccer Coaches Second Team All-America.
OL Reign still has several players in contract negotiations. When the club announced end-of-season roster moves in November, contract negotiations were ongoing with goalkeepers Laurel Ivory and Maia Perez, defender Ryanne Brown, and midfielder Olivia Athens.
Rose Lavelle, Emily Sonnett, and Nikki Stanton are unrestricted free agents, free to sign with any club. Angelina and Tziarra King are restricted free agents, meaning that if another NWSL team makes an offer to sign them, OL Reign has seven days to match that offer. The club will likely not have any final deals made with free agents before the NWSL Expansion Draft on December 15 – as unsigned free agents cannot be selected in the draft by expansion clubs.